May Day statement
CUPE National released its annual May Day statement this week. This year’s statement asked members to think about workers throughout the world, their struggles, their victories and the solidarity we have with them.
“May Day belongs to all working people and should transcend borders so that workers feel part of a larger movement,” the statement said. “We join in solidarity with workers everywhere to create a better world, which respects and celebrates workers, our culture and the labour movement as a whole.”
CUPE’s National Officers also urged members to “use our solidarity here at home to fight for a universal child care program, an end to privatization of our health care system and all public services”.
All aboard for strong public childcare
On the heels of Stephen Harper’s first budget, Vancouver parents, childcare advocates and children will be gathering this weekend to speak out against the derailing of the promised national childcare program.
“The decision by Stephen Harper’s Conservatives to cancel five-year transfer agreements in place of a $1,200 annual subsidy represents a $4-billion dollar cut in federal funding for childcare,” said CUPE BC President Barry O’Neill.
“We are enraged with Prime Minister Harper for this disrespectful behaviour toward working families and the children who need solid public childcare now,” said child care worker and advocate Randi Gurholt-Seary. “We are disappointed and dismayed that this government is working to derail our children’s future.”
The gathering will also collect signatures to add to the online petition at buildchildcare.ca and to encourage support of the “Code Blue” campaign. Supporters will be asked to demand that their members of Parliament support the federal-provincial agreements and pass legislation to protect the development of a national, not-for-profit childcare program
Strike averted at Thames Valley school board
A tentative agreement has been reached between educational and instructional assistants and the Thames Valley District School Board, averting a strike that would have affected 186 schools in the city of London, Ontario and surrounding counties.
“We are happy that we managed to reach a deal without a strike,” said Pat Wilson, Vice-President of CUPE Local 4222, Unit C. “We will be recommending this deal to our members for ratification.”
CUPE represents 852 permanent and 311 casual EAs and IAs, who provide care to special needs students. Details of the tentative agreement will not be released until it has been presented to the members for ratification on May 8.
A strong municipal library for Nelson
The Nelson Municipal Library’s contract dispute has been settled with an agreement that promotes a strong and active public library for the British Columbia city.
“It was a difficult process, but both library workers and Nelson residents have come out ahead, “ says Bev LaPointe, President of CUPE Local 339, the union representing the municipal library workers and all City of Nelson unionized staff.
The primary issue was parity with other city workers. For Nelson library users, the major benefit is the guarantee that programs will be untouched.
“The workers gave something to maintain wage parity,” says LaPointe. “Like other city workers, the library workers gave up sick leave benefits.” In addition, a training incentive that some library workers had been receiving was relinquished to achieve an across-the-board, 7 per cent wage increase over four years.
A mediator succeeded in helping the Nelson Municipal Library Board and CUPE settle the contract, which had been outstanding for almost three years.
A brochure sent door-to-door in the Nelson area last week informed residents about the dispute and the services offered by the very popular municipal library.
N.S. adult residential centre employees vote in favour of strike
Employees at the Bridgetown Adult Residential Centre in Nova Scotia have voted 85 percent in favour of strike action. The 33 members of CUPE Local 2859 held the vote May 1.
The main issues in the dispute include the pension, wages and classifications, and shift and weekend premiums. “CUPE has been asking the provincial Department of Community Services to move to a “lead table” model of bargaining, similar to the one used in the nursing home sector,” said CUPE National Representative John Evans.
This method would allow workers in adult residential centres, group homes and other centres to bargain all at the same time.
Alberta Liberal insults school custodial workers
In a statement made in the provincial Legislature this week, Lethbridge East Liberal MLA Bridget Pastoor insulted public school custodial workers by suggesting there would be no impact if their jobs were cut. She stated that schools can get along without custodians, which she called “janitors”, but not without teachers.
Studies show that school cleanliness and maintenance are essential to student achievement. Student attendance and absenteeism are reduced in clean, well-kept schools.
CUPE Local 474 sympathizes with the plight of the Lethbridge Public School Board, which is facing a funding shortfall, as are other Alberta school boards, but feels Pastoor went too far in her statements.
“Pitting one group of workers against another is not useful, even if it was only used for rhetorical purposes,” said CUPE Local 474 President Doug Luellman. “It shows that the Liberal opposition is no different from the government. It undervalues the work done by public school custodial workers. It is this attitude that has allowed schools across Alberta to become dangerously unhealthy. Without us, schools would not function.”
CUPE Local 474, which represents over 600 public school custodial workers, is demanding an apology from Pastor and Liberal Leader Kevin Taft.
CUPE Ontario: Liberal community care plan falls short
In his community care plan announced this week, Ontario Health Minister George Smitherman has failed to address the main barrier to creating a stable community care system in the province — competitive bidding.
“The tragedy for all Ontarians is that the minister is extending competitive bidding to all health care services through the local health integration networks,” said CUPE Ontario Secretary-Treasurer Brian O’Keefe.
Competitive bidding has created deplorable working conditions in community care, creating a huge incentive for workers to flee the sector, said Kelly O’Sullivan, President of two CUPE locals representing personal support workers.
Wages are bad, benefits are weak and pensions, where they exist, are inadequate. Smitherman’s announcement of an increase in the minimum wage to $12.50 an hour will do little to solve the problem.
“I know so many workers, women for the most part, who are working seven days a week with two or even three different employers just to make ends meet,” said O’Sullivan. “The only way to stop the drain of highly qualified staff from this sector is to give them wage parity with personal support workers in hospitals. That means $17 to $18 an hour.”
In the community care system, wages have been artificially driven down by the competitive bidding system, O’Keefe said.
Trois-Rivières University lecturers reach settlement
Lecturers at the Université du Québec à Trois-Rivières (UQTR) have a new contract that gives them a 24 percent raise over five years.
“This is the first time since our local was founded in 1982 that negotiations on major issues have ended in a settlement without a conciliator,” said CUPE Local 2661 President Carole Neill.
The lecturers also gained other benefits such as long-term health insurance, computer upgrades and an increase to the educational development fund.
Wayne Lucas re-elected President of CUPE NL
CUPE members from across Newfoundland and Labrador have elected St. John’s school board worker Wayne Lucas as their provincial president for the ninth time in a row.
Delegates at the union’s convention in Marystown gave Lucas the nod for what will likely be his last term in office. He has been president of CUPE NL since 1991.